If you’ve ever played the game Guacamelee then you already know how the battle system of The Legend Of Tianding works, a Taiwanese beat ’em up with comic book-like visuals.
The first thing that impresses are these visuals. They immediately jump out with their Ben-Day dots pattern. The second thing that most people will notice is the Robin Hood-like story, that becomes even more apparent when that same character is also referenced by name several times during the story.
And I think we all know that story: Robin Hood takes money from the rich and gives it to the poor. The Taiwanese counterpart Tianding does things the same way really, just in a different setting.
The gameplay is entirely in 2D (shown in 2.5D) and even though it’s a beat ’em up the hub area (for lack of a better name) can be moved through freely. In this hub area you can decide to give money to the poor which earns you a collectible (or buff, really, but I’ll get into that later) and to help others in need (fetch quests where you have to collect an item or items). There’s also some light entertainment in the form of music (one of the longest songs in history, but it has its charm) as well as a card game that on first sight looks similar to UNO, but in reality is a lot harder. All the times that I have played it I lost big money. To the same guy. Frustrating. But it’s there if you want a few minutes of relaxation, which is almost always a great addition of course. Fast travel points can also be unlocked later on to move around more swiftly.
The levels themselves are well made with the same amounts of detail and sometimes they have multiple paths to take. These different paths can contain collectibles and enemies and always result in either going back to the previous path afterwards or going forward and still coming back to that same path. This is *not* a metroidvania in case you’re confused. Enemies will also either be standing around or they will spawn when entering areas where chests are already located. Defeat all of those enemies and that same chest will open where you’ll receive money and a collectible. There are also secret areas to find, some are visible and some have to be found, that contain collectibles and money as well. Later on you’ll receive sidequests that have you revisit the already visited areas, but, like most sidequests, these feel like filler and I haven’t had the urge to do these myself, apart from a few that I had collected by coincidence. Also, because the levels aren’t really interesting, even though they’re well made.
The combat on the other hand is great. You can clearly tell Guacamelee was an inspiration as it uses the same kinds of moves and traversal mechanics. You can juggle enemies to keep your combo going, punching and kicking them as you see fit. At other times you’ll have to use these same mechanics to cross an otherwise impossibly to reach platform. It all works perfectly, honestly. And I haven’t even mentioned the disarm ability: hit an enemy enough times and you can execute a move that disarms them and will give you the ability to use it. So you could steal a rocket launcher and really dish out some damage. And usually there are multiple enemies (sometimes purple ones with a lot more health and power) with different kinds of weapons, so you could just take a personal favorite, or even use them all in the end. Cool stuff. There are also several boss fights that can be remarkably hard. I’ve died plenty of times fighting them. They have a lot of patterns and skills they use so it’s mostly a matter of remembering what to do and when, but still, it can be discouraging. And every time you die (up to five times I think) you’ll also lose a percentage of your money. Talk about discouragement (or encouragement, to just pay attention and take them down if you want a different take on it).
Now, as for the collectibles. The game calls these collectibles, but they’re really passive buffs. That means each collectible that you can pick-up adds up to a total of something. For example, you could get a buff that adds 0.5 seconds to a special skill, or one that could add 20% of health. These are well thought of and it’s a fantastic system. I wonder why no one else has come up with this before. It makes hunting for collectibles not such a chore and it also makes your character much stronger if you wish. And if you don’t want to do any of that and make the game a little harder that would be fine too. In total there are 145 collectibles to be found. Very nice.
Besides collectibles there are also talismans to find and equip. You have three slots and each talisman has a specific amount that will be used up when it’s equipped. So that means you could take three talismans of one point, or a stronger, more useful one of three points, but you could also mix it up with one of two points and another one of one.
The Legend Of Tianding is a solid beat ‘em up with perfect comic book-style visuals. The way the game has you find stackable buffs by finding collectibles is a great way to keep it interesting and a great way to let everyone decide for themselves how they want to spend their time with it (do you want to keep the game challenging, or make your character stronger, or a bit of both?). The platforming and combat are excellent, too, similar to Guacamelee’s. The short length might be a turn off for some, but I found the length to be perfectly fine for the average gamer. Plus, you can easily put some more hours into it if you would really want to. If you like beat ‘em ups then this is an easy recommendation for sure.